Fiction - The Wormwood Collective, Eros and Thanatos

The Blindfold
by Donna George Storey

I kneel down and you put on the blindfold.

Strictly speaking, it isn’t a blindfold; it’s a silk scarf. My brother and his wife gave it to me for Christmas. I’m sure his wife picked it out, a pretty fabric with a floral design in crimson, deep blue and gold. But when I opened the gift, my smile was a bit forced. I’m not a scarf person, and I was thinking: When will I ever wear this?

But I gave it a try. When we got home, I spent a good fifteen minutes in front of the mirror attempting to knot the oblong piece of material into an appealing fashion accessory. You sat on the edge of the bed and watched smugly because they’d gotten you some Charlie Parker CDs.

Then I got the idea to wear the scarf as a hair-band, to keep my bangs off my face. Another failure.

“I can’t do anything with this thing. I’m sure it was expensive, too. Do you think they’d get mad if I took it back?”

You walked over to me.

“How about this way?” You pulled the bottom edge of the scarf down over my eyes.

I could still see you hazily through the single layer of loose silk. You knew that, didn’t you? You looked at me for a moment, your head tilted to one side as if you were deciding what to do. Then you kissed me. Hard.

When we finally came up for air, my lips felt tender, a little swollen.

I said, “Now tie it on so I can’t see.”

That was the beginning. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve done it since then, but it’s gotten us through this long winter. Sometimes you blindfold me. Sometimes I blindfold you. It all depends on who comes up with a new idea. It’s never the same. That’s our unspoken rule.

Not that it’s entirely unpredictable. You seem to prefer that I wear some sort of clothing: one of your shirts or a teddy, something you can eventually slip off. After more than a year together, it still excites you to uncover my breasts, weigh them in your hands as if you are touching them for the first time. That’s one of the things I like about you.

I prefer you to be completely naked. The first time I blindfolded you, I was the one who was trembling. Although it was my idea that you kneel on the bed wearing nothing but the blindfold, when you actually began to undress with a cool smile, I almost told you to stop. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to see your big body so exposed, a band of flowered silk over your eyes with the long, loose ends falling softly down your back. I thought it might somehow diminish you.

But I was wrong. I’d never realized how beautiful your body was. Not that I hadn’t appreciated it before but I’d always focused my gaze on your eyes, your expressions. The rest of you I knew better by touch. But now, with your eyes hidden, I could see you with a new clarity: the rich, taut curves of your arms and chest, the hint of soft flesh at your waist that I found oddly pleasing. I noticed that the hair on your belly fanned out more luxuriantly to the left, and by contrast, your right thigh was slightly more muscular, a legacy of your college fencing days. It didn’t take long for you to get hard—it never did when we used the blindfold—and I got to watch that, the delicate jerking movements of your penis as it rose and thickened, drawn upward by invisible puppet strings which, I imagined, led straight to my hands.

I felt like a thief.

I stood there and felt my own desire grow within me in a completely new way. This time the familiar ache seemed to originate from behind my eyes, from the very sight of you unseeing. Then it seeped downward, bringing a warm flush to my cheeks and neck, making my nipples grow erect. It finally reached my belly, pooling there as a sharp, shimmering hunger. A hunger I could only appease by feasting on your body, taking you inside of me in every way possible.

So I did.

When you decide the game, you often feed me things. A dish of rice pudding in baby-sized bites from a spoon. Morsels of praline truffle you push through my lips with your tongue. And most often, your cock. I don’t know why, but your semen tastes sweeter when I am wearing the blindfold.

One time you slipped a tiny wedge of soft paper between my lips, struck a match, and instructed me to inhale. It was a joint. Where did you get this? I wanted to ask you, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk—you had a way of letting me know such things—so I just lay quietly next to you on the bed and took long drags whenever you held it to my mouth. It must have been good stuff, because soon I was tingling all over just this side of numbness, floating off the bed into the past. It had been years since I’d smoked a joint. I never bought drugs myself. They were always presented to me as an offering from a boy in exchange for what I could offer him in return. So many things had changed since then, but it took me back to a time when I was so dumb about men, I might as well have been wearing a scarf over my eyes.

And yet, when the blindfold goes on, I can see certain things more clearly. That blank screen against my eyelids is alive with images, visions, memories that arouse me in strange and quiet ways. Sometimes I feel as if I am standing at the edge of a precipice looking down over a landscape of rolling hills glowing in the late summer sunset. The doll-sized farms and tiny church steeples remind me that the routines of ordinary life go on, but far away from where I stand.

I’ve always loved panoramic views. With the blindfold on I can almost see the sign for the “scenic overlook” flash past the car window, see my father make the turn off the highway and carefully pull into a marked parking space even when ours was the only car in the lot. It might be any year of my childhood, for we took long driving vacations every summer. While my parents sighed and stretched and gazed at the scenery, my brother broke out of the car running, looking for trouble, hopping up on crumbling walls and pretending to lose his balance, making machine gun noises with those boxy metal binoculars you had to pay to use. They never had to scold me, though. I just watched my brother’s antics, eyes narrowed in pleasure at the touch of the breeze on my skin, and thought: Some day I’ll do dangerous things, too.

It’s been a difficult winter for both of us. I know things aren’t going well for you at work, but I didn’t realize how upset you were until that day when I came home to find you practicing with your sabre.

Once, when we first started going out, you gave me a demonstration of some fencing moves. I liked the way you looked in that white jacket, the single leather glove on your right hand, but I wasn’t so sure about the wire mesh mask. I thought it made you look like a huge insect. Or an executioner.

“Forget The Three Musketeers,” you told me, “what you want to do is keep the blade within an imaginary frame around your body, to move as little as possible and still protect yourself. The most important part, though, is reading your opponent. It’s like a game of chess, move and countermove,” you said. “And when you get it just right, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

But as I watched you, so graceful on your feet as you advanced then retreated, I thought it seemed less like a game than a strange and beautiful dance.

This second time, it was different. You wore no mask and your T-shirt was stained with sweat. There was a fierceness in your concentration, your brow furrowed, your lips pale. I don’t even think you saw me at first. Again and again you lunged at your imaginary opponent: a feint to the chest, then the quick and fatal strike to the head. I could see the metal meet flesh, then the cold satisfaction in your eyes as you watched the body crumple to the floor. Whoever it was died several times over.

Finally you turned to me. You were too far away to touch me with the blade, but you extended your wrist toward me as if you were pointing me out to some unseen stranger.

I frowned. “Hey, watch out, you could hurt someone with that.”

Your mouth curved into a slight smile. “That’s the idea,” you said, tilting the sabre back in salute.

I’ve been having troubles of my own. My father was in the hospital with another heart attack, and there was talk of surgery. The first time I went to visit, you came with me. As we walked through the corridors, the pallid fluorescent light and muted antiseptic smell began to make me feel ill, so I reached for your hand, the only warm real thing in the whole place.

You waited in the hall while I went into the room. My father was sleeping. He looked so old, his body sprouting tubes and wires, his face all creases and shadows. My mother was sitting by the bed staring down at the book on her lap. I glanced back at you, leaning against the wall across from the doorway, arms crossed, gazing straight ahead. Your expression was patient, blank. I knew you didn’t see me then. I wanted to be where you were—far, far away—but my mother pulled me back with her cool lips on my cheek, her anxious reassurances.

When she saw you she stiffened but, ever courteous, walked out to greet you. I watched you come together in a brief, guarded embrace, watched your lips move as you said something to her, watched her nod without really looking at you.

I’d known from the beginning that she didn’t really approve of you. Does he love you? she asked me once, quietly, almost under her breath. I shrugged because that was the only answer I could give.

I wonder if she could have understood the attraction better if I had told her about the blindfold?

Strangely enough, one of my best ideas came from my mother. She was going through her sewing scrap box, when she pulled out a square of deep red velvet and said, “Remember this? It’s from that dress I made you for Christmas when you were—how old—eight or nine?” The fabric was soft with age and I instinctively rubbed it over my hand, up over my wrist. It felt especially nice when I ran a velvet-covered finger along the inside of my arm. I was so lost in my sweet memories of that dress, how grown-up and glamorous I felt when I wore it to church on Christmas morning then over to my aunt’s house for dinner, that I didn’t realize for several moments that I held in my hand the perfect surprise for our next game.

It was a good one. After I blindfolded you, I had you lie face down on the bed and guess what I was rubbing over your skin: the tip of my nose along your spine, the loose end of blindfold across your shoulders, my finger in the valley of your ass, my breasts across the back of your knees. I saved the velvet until last and stroked the length of you with it like I was polishing a precious, breakable object. You usually didn’t make much noise when we made love, but by the time I was done with your back, you were almost mewing. And more than ready to turn over.

As I carefully dusted off your other side, I told you about the dress, about how I wore it with white tights and patent leather shoes and had a bow with holly on it in my hair, and about how thrilled I was when all of the adults told me I looked so pretty.

“I’ll bet you were cute,” you said with a smile as I lowered myself onto you and started my slow ride.

So cute, I told you, that even my oldest cousin—the one I had a crush on, the one who lives in Texas now—gallantly offered me a turn with his train set. Before I’d always had to beg and whine. But that day, I felt like a princess. And in trying to figure out what was different about it, I had my first inkling that the way to get something from boys is to look pretty. Then they’ll do anything for you. Isn’t that true? I asked you.

“Uh huh,” you replied, arching back into the pillow.

Not long after that you asked me to kneel when you put on the blindfold. Then you went on to position my body with your hands, telling me to keep my back straight, my shoulders down, my chin up. You told me not to move, not even to smile. You proceeded to caress me, starting at my cheeks just below the edge of the blindfold. You traced my lips with one fingertip, drew ovals on my chin, brushed my neck and collar bone with feathery strokes. I managed to hold myself still until your hands moved to my breasts. That’s when you had to remind me of the rules and rearrange my body in the proper position. You even reprimanded me for breathing too quickly. “Slow, baby; nice and slow,” you whispered, smoothing the tension from my lips and jaw until I was quiet.

But then you started up again, rolling my nipples between your fingers like you were fine-tuning a radio, rubbing one breast then the other with a spit-moistened palm. You knew my body. I had my proof then, if there was any doubt before. And all I could do was squeeze my eyes shut tighter and tighter under the blindfold as my cheeks began to burn and a fine sweat rose like lubricant on the skin beneath your hands. Soon my chest was throbbing so violently, my ribs ached. By then you’d moved down to my belly, drawing strange shapes that sometimes—just sometimes—extended farther down. Then you’d come back to tease my belly-button with a wet finger, stroking, circling, slipping softly inside.

In the end, there was nothing I could do to stop myself from trembling, but by that time I guess the rules had changed, for you pushed me back on the bed and entered me with an urgency that surprised me, that tiny part of me that was still capable of coherent thought. How could just touching me—a statue—excite you so much? But your breath was coming as fast as your thrusts, and I was not far behind.

The experience of orgasm in general is something I can easily conjure in my mind, but specific ones elude me. Even when I remember the circumstances of the lovemaking, the things we said and did, the climax blurs into a vague sensation of bliss. An ending. But that orgasm is one I still remember in my body, a searing rush of pleasure as my desire finally burst free. And I remember marveling afterwards that we had done it: We had found a way to make each time better than the last.

Of course it couldn’t go on forever.

Earlier tonight I convinced you to watch an episode of an English TV series about a king with too many wives, because it was one of my favorite shows as a child. I had fond memories of sitting before the television with a notebook, sketching the Tudor gowns. But as I watched it again, I realized there was a lot I didn’t remember. I didn’t remember the growing sense of doom as the king’s love waned. I didn’t remember the ugly marital quarrels, the political intrigue, the scene where the queen’s musician was blinded under torture with a knotted rope. It was altogether too gloomy and talky, so I didn’t complain when you started reading something halfway through. I decided to be satisfied you were there with me, idly rubbing my toes with one hand, holding the magazine with the other.

I noticed, however, that you started paying attention again when the queen was imprisoned on trumped up charges of adultery. When it got to the execution scene, you put down the magazine. And so we both watched, transfixed, as the queen glided over to the scaffold, made her poignant farewell speech, knelt down before the block. The lady-in-waiting tied a narrow, snow-white blindfold over the kneeling woman’s eyes. In that one moment, before the sword, the actress looked more beautiful than ever, at least those parts of her set off by the blindfold above and the low-cut dress below: her pouting crimson lips, her fragile neck and the swelling of her breasts that rose and fell with each breath. I remembered something else from long ago, my brother and cousins in the back of the station wagon on a hot summer day, talking about that same television show. The only part of interest to them was when the queen “got her head chopped off.” At the time, I didn’t understand the edge of excitement in their voices.

But suddenly I did.

We turned to each other with the same crooked, tight-lipped smiles.

“Well,” you said. “So, that was your favorite show?”

“Mmm,” I replied. “I’d forgotten about that part.”

We sat in silence.

Then I said to you, “What do you think goes through someone’s head at a time like that?”

You thought, your brow furrowed, then shook your head.

More silence.

“So what do you want to do now?” I asked.

You shook your head again. “I don’t know. I’m in a weird mood.”

I was well aware that interesting things happened when you were in a weird mood.

I gave you a sidelong glance. “Do you want to blindfold me?” I couldn’t remember the last time we’d made love without it.

You looked at me curiously. “Now that would be too weird.”

“But I want you to. I guess I’m in a weird mood, too. How about it?” I poked you.

“No,” you replied sharply.

“How about ‘yes’?” I said, taking up the challenge. I decided I would overcome your reluctance, make you want to do it. Before we had always glided into the game together, willingly, but I discovered that this new element of conflict excited me.

You, on the other hand, seemed uneasy. “What’s with you tonight?”

“What’s with me? Who started this blindfold business anyway?”

“You didn’t take much convincing, if I remember correctly.”

This went on for a while until finally I asked, “Come on, what are you afraid of?”

You drew back, eyes narrowed, lips pressed together. That’s when I knew I’d won, even before you stalked off to the bedroom and returned with the blindfold balled up in your hand.

At that point I was lounging back in the sofa, arms crossed, enjoying my victory.

“Should I get undressed?” I asked with a coy smile. I was still expecting you to smile back, still waiting for that flicker of desire in your eyes. It was always the last thing I saw before the blindfold went on.

But you just stared at me coldly. I’d never seen you quite like this before.

I sat up. “Well, what should I do?”

“Just get down on your fucking knees.”

You didn’t seem to be pretending. I know I wasn’t pretending when I jumped, when my jaw fell open in surprise. I was really afraid of you then. Afraid to meet your eyes. Afraid to breathe.

I stood up and looked around the living room for a place to kneel. The coffee table took up most of the well-worn oval rug, but there was plenty of scarred hardwood floor.

“Can I get a pillow or something?” I attempted another smile.

“Shut up and kneel,” you said.

So, I kneel down and you put on the blindfold.

The floor is hard and cold. I hear the tip-tap of your shoes as you leave the room. I am alone. At first my mind is racing as I wonder what you could be doing. But then, as I wait in the stillness, with the blindfold on, I begin to feel safe. This darkness is familiar, with its memory and promise of pleasure, of yielding myself to you. The very air seems to press against me, heavy and faintly moist, the boundaries of my body softening with each breath.

Suddenly I hear footsteps behind me, a faint metallic clink. My shoulders tense, the air grows thin. Something very cool and smooth settles on the right side of my neck. In the next instant I realize it is your hand. In a glove. A leather glove. It rests there for a moment, the fingers gripping my throat. The leather grows warm, sucking up the heat of my skin. Then it begins to move, stroking my neck, brushing my cheek. I sigh.

“Do you like this?” Your voice sounds far away.

I hesitate, afraid to get the answer wrong. “Yes.”

“Then enjoy it while you can. Because after tonight I’ll never touch you again.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean, this is the last time.”

Your hand slips away.

“I don’t understand. You’re leaving me?”

“Don’t worry; when it’s all over, you won’t care.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Come on now.” Your voice is low, mocking as you turn my own words against me, “What are you afraid of?”

I swallow hard. “This is part of the game, right?”

At first you don’t reply. I hear the floorboards creak, another clink of metal. Footsteps circle around to my left and stop somewhere in front of me. Then you snort, a soft hiss of air. “Don’t you see I’m tired of playing your sick games?”

My games?

For a moment I am aware of nothing but a coldness spreading up through my chest, down my arms, settling in my fingers as a dull, distant ache.

But suddenly I do see it, hovering against the blindfold: the image of myself as you see me now, as you must have seen me all along. A body—exposed and vulnerable—but not beautiful, not beloved.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I cry out, half-choking on the words as I collapse to the floor, chest sagging onto my knees. I don’t want to cry, not in front of you, not now, so I press my palms over my eyes, but the tears come anyway, stinging as they rise, spilling over into the silk.

Hands grasp my shoulders. I twist away instinctively, but they hold me fast, and I begin to feel, through the cloth of my shirt, the warmth of skin, a gentleness in your fingers. Then you pull me up, murmuring something I can’t hear through my own sobs. I struggle to my feet and bury my face in your shoulder. You stroke my back, swaying.

As I cling to you, I say less in accusation than wonder, “You were torturing me. Do you see that?”

“Isn’t it what you wanted?” you whisper.

“No. I don’t think so. I don’t know,” I say. In truth, I don’t think I’d ever really been aware of what I was asking you to do.

“Believe me, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never want to hurt you.” Your arms tighten around me, squeezing me with a force just short of actual pain.

It is the blindfold that suddenly seems unbearably tight.

“Take it off now. Please?” I could pull it off myself—it has always been a voluntary bondage—but I want you to do it. I want you to break the spell.

Your hands fumble at the knot. Then you pull the scarf free and let it fall to the floor.

I look up and see that your eyes are wet too, like wounds. I lean toward you. You close your eyes and so do I, an unthinking act that all lovers do. In that simple darkness we find each other’s lips. I want at this moment nothing more than the exquisitely ordinary comfort of your lips against mine.

That is enough.

  

© 2001 Donna George Storey

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